On the DiMarco
Yes, the time had come for DiMarco to finally step into the PGA Tour's winner's circle. And fittingly enough, he did so at the inaugural SEI Pennsylvania Classic.
DiMarco carded a final-round 2-under-par 69 for a six-shot victory over Scott Hoch, Brad Elder, Jonathan Kaye, Chris Perry and Mark Calcavecchia. A decade removed from his outstanding collegiate career, DiMarco finally earned his first PGA Tour title.
The road less traveled is often covered in stones. Yet, in golf, that bumpy road is more oft traversed than not.
A brilliant amateur career means nothing on the professional level. DiMarco, like many others, found that out the hard way.
A Tour rookie in 1994, DiMarco finished 85th on the money list. The future was promising. Then came 1995. DiMarco endured the dreaded sophomore slump. He finished 174th in earnings and lost his Tour card.
'I had a terrible year (in 1995),' DiMarco recalled. 'It was mostly putting. I was not putting well at all. At the end of the year, I played in a mini-tour event and I was not playing well. And Skip Kendall showed me something, `look at this (putting) grip.'
'And I looked at him and told him, `You're crazy,' but I tried it and it kind of resurrected me.'
DiMarco had no official-playing status in 1996, but he did have a new putting grip, and with it, a new sense of confidence.
'I knew I was as good as anybody out here from tee-to-green,' said DiMarco. 'It was just a matter of getting the ball into the hole.'
In 1997, DiMarco used his 'claw-like' grip to finish third on the then-NIKE Tour. He even collected a victory at the Ozarks Open. Twenty-nine years old at the time, DiMarco had earned another shot in the big leagues.
DiMarco had a solid season in 1998. He picked up a pair of top-10s and finished the year 111th on the money list.
'I had a year that I proved to myself that I can play out here with that grip,' DiMarco said, 'and then, you know, last year I had a good year.'
Last year, DiMarco made the cut in 20 of 31 events played. He finished runner-up at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, and ended the year 62nd in earnings.
As he did in 1999, DiMarco steadily improved in 2000. Entering this week's Pennsylvania Classic, the now-32-year-old was 40th on the money list. He had established himself as a respectable competitor, earning two more second-place finishes.
Yet, he still had something to prove.
Through three rounds at the in Paoli, Penn., DiMarco held a three-stroke lead. Though he had come close to winning before, this was virgin territory for DiMarco. He had never taken a lead into the final round of a PGA Tour event. And with the likes of Calcavecchia and Loren Roberts nipping at his heels, even DiMarco wondered how he would handle the pressure.
'I got a good message from Brent Geiberger (who won his first-career event at the 1999 Greater Hartford Open) last night,' said DiMarco. 'He said: `Focus on yourself, don't worry about anybody else.'
'I told my wife the message. I said, `You know, that's such good advice.' I said, `Don't get ahead of yourself, just do - you know, what you've been doing the last three days and it will be great.' I took that to heart and I did that.
'Me and my wife have been through so much and my family has been through so much. Being so close so many times, even on the (Buy.Com Tour), losing in playoffs - it's just never been easy.'
Remarkably, Sunday's final round was.
With his family on hand, DiMarco holed a 143-yard approach shot at the par-4 3rd for an eagle 2. That set the tone for the day.
'I heard a clank, and I didn't know if it was over the green and hit somebody or if it went in,' DiMarco recounted, 'and then everybody went crazy. That really relaxed me, perhaps a little too much.'
At 14-under, and leading by five shots, DiMarco held a comfortable cushion over the field. That comfort level decreased, however, with bogeys at the 4th, 9th and 11th holes.
Nervously leading Calcavecchia by two, DiMarco calmed himself on the par-4 12th. The former University of Florida All-America spun his approach shot back to eight feet, and then converted the birdie putt. Meanwhile, playing in the group behind DiMarco, Calc bogeyed the 12th to fall four off the pace.
'The birdie at the 12th was probably the biggest,' said DiMarco. 'I think Calc birdied 11 and I bogeyed. So we went to two shots and he bogeyed 12 and I birdied 12; so we're right back to four shots. That really helped me a lot.'
DiMarco played his final seven holes in 2-under-par. He strolled up the 18th with a six-shot lead, making his final tap-in easy to handle.
'I tell you, if it was only a one-shot lead, that eight-incher would have been really hard,' DiMarco said with a wry smile. 'But with five shots to spare, it was a really easy putt.
'It's a great feeling. It is what you hit those extra balls on the range for, what you hit those extra putts for.'
For the record, DiMarco never three-putted the tricky Waynesborough Country Club greens.
DiMarco has many reasons to be proud of his accomplishments this week. Five-hundred-and-forty-thousand of those will come from his winner's check. His perseverance has finally paid off, and in a big way.
But more than that, DiMarco has earned something money can't buy on the PGA Tour - respect.
'The Tour is an elite club as it is, and then the winner of a PGA Tour event is another one, even amongst itself,' said DiMarco. 'So I'm extremely proud of myself that I achieved that.'
DiMarco can also be proud of the fact that he'll be playing amongst the Tour's best at both the season-ending TOUR Championship (top 30 on 2000 money list) and the 2001-kickoff, the Mercedes Championships (all 2000 Tour winners.) DiMarco now stands 16th in season earnings.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.